Of course my mental illness is in my head, Sharon.

Depression and anxiety effect everyone differently. I can’t speak for others on how they feel or try to cope. But I can speak for me. And for me, they are ever-present, demanding my notice and attention like a petulant child.

“Look at me! Look at me!”

Most of the time, I don’t. I go about my day, in relative happiness, calm and able to enjoy parts of it. I read a book. Play with my dogs. Take my daughter to school and help my son with his coursework.

But, like a child, they don’t leave. They sit on my shoulder, making me fight the urge to tell my kids to stop running on the playground. They make me unable to speak to the cashier. Eye contact is physically uncomfortable and dropping my daughter off at preschool is immediately met with an insane need to sleep for two hours. There’s just a constant catch in my throat, a nagging in my ear, that reminds me the moment is fragile and fleeting. That everything can come crashing down within the blink of an eye.

And sometimes? Sometimes, I do look. Exasperated, exhausted from trying to hold it all inside, I look directly into crippling eyes and

I

f
a
l
l.

I resort to retreating. Curling up inside of my mind, and in my bed if possible, I sink into the anxiety, letting my depression settle around me like a blanket. It’s stifling and it terrifies me. I get cranky when I’m hot, and under the oppressive weight of my own thoughts, I start lashing out at people. Angry that they’re helping, that I may need them. And angrier at myself because my reaction will inevitably drive them away. It always does. But I can’t stop the words from falling past my lips even as I’m screaming inside to shut my mouth.

Lights hurt.
Talking hurts.
Forcing a smile hurts.
Hurts
Hurts
Hurts.

Everything hurts.

My thoughts become disjointed, breaking into abrupt and senseless chaos before descending into a continuous stream of thought without pause and I can tell someone is talking to me but is that even English what the hell are they saying and my skin is on fire and it hurts and small hands are tugging on my shirt and they need me and they’re repeating my name and why can’t you just play nice and why do you need to argue and they need lunch but my legs won’t move and fuck I can’t breathe and my chest hurts lungs hurt head hurts arm hurts and please please please stop can’t listen can’t think can’t talk and the baby is crying and I’m crying and it’s okay mom just go sit down and it isn’t stopping why isn’t it stopping make it stop it needs to stop stop stop stop fucking STOP

And then it does, and a heavy silence settles on me, and I’m left with broken pieces and a mess to clean up that I can hardly remember making. And the thing is, I might not have seen it coming. I might have known days in advance, might have felt the fog creeping into me and seen it darkening my life in my peripheral.

But I probably didn’t. I’m so used to this whispering reminder that I’m not enough, and that I’m fucking crazy, that the signs are so commonplace they escape my notice. And I try to ride it out and I try to work past it, but when you have people depending on you, it’s hard. So I bottle it up, and I don’t talk about it, because what if my husband just thinks I’m a burden and he decides this isn’t worth putting up with my psycho ass but he’s never even said that and he loves me so why but why does he love me when all I do is mess things up and lose the keys and forget to pay a bill and round and round we go.

If we stop, nobody knows.

Depression and anxiety aren’t moods. They aren’t something you get over, or push through, or smile off. You probably can’t really snap someone out of it, not totally. Honestly, if you think you’ve helped me? 99% of the time, I’m lying.

I’m lying about the fact that I ate today (and maybe yesterday) and I’m lying about the fact that I feel better and I’m lying when I say I like me, too. Because I don’t, not really. I love my husband, and our kids, and my dogs. And I live in constant fear and expectation of the day that I’m going to wake up and that’ll all be gone, and it’ll be all my fault.

“Of course this is happening in your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”

– Albus Dumbledore

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Once Upon a Park Bench

Every love story has a beginning, and an ending. That is simply the way of things. As children, you are told tales of the greatest of loves; epic ballads fraught with peril, adventure and the very fiercest of passions. Poignant stories that speak of steadfast romances that overcome the odds. You are taught that love, true love, can conquer all things in this life.

This is a lie.

As they tell you these stories of happily-ever-after, they ignore the endings that bring about hurt. The ones that crash and burn, the slow fades. They don’t tell you of something that never truly started, so it never truly ended, leaving the bitter taste of almost in its path. There is a melancholy attachment to love, and the tale I am to tell is one such as that.

Where I sit in the park overlooks many things. On a good day, my shadow extends past the bench in front of me, beyond the walking path and to the very far edge of the playground. I have lived here from the start, when my kind was thick across this land, tall and proud. Few of us remain, decades later, but we never forget.

The bench I mentioned was oak. It was sturdy, handcrafted from the remnants of my family members. In hindsight, maybe that’s why I watched over it so closely. It felt like someone I once knew. On it’s wide expanse people would rest. They would read the daily news, take their lunch breaks and watch their children on the nearby play area. It was there a local boy proposed to his high-school sweetheart.

Oh, such happy times!

The bench in question is very important. You see, it is around this bench that my story revolves. It it the proof that love does not always end with a beautiful sunset, but rather, with splintered pieces. You must remember that love is not universal; it happens differently for each being, manifesting and flowing and twisting through us in mysterious ways that even the wisest of my ancient species could not explain. Sometimes we grow to love, and other times love lands in our lives with the merest whisper of the wind.

It started in October. It was a beautiful day, the sun beating down happily with the warm breeze, playing with my leaves. They were changing colors, and soon they’d cover the ground in a blanket of reds and browns, a satisfying audible for rambunctious children and their worn-out sneakers. It was late enough in the day that my shadow had shifted from the bench, instead cooling off a spot in the grass to the right of us. The warmth from the sun heated its wood, and the metal frame that held it up was uncomfortable for people to touch. As a consequence, no one sat upon the park bench, and it remained empty and waiting.

Clouds had begun to form in the sky, and it was no surprise to anyone as afternoon rain showers were common this time of the year. It had once rained for seventeen days in a row, and the benches and picnic tables had needed to be resealed because of the severity of the water.

Great, white puffy clouds circled the park that day, searching for their desired spots to cast their shade. Some liked to hang over the playground, providing the children with relief, and if their parents were a bit reckless, a moment of fun when they let loose with rain, creating muddy puddles and water slides. Others preferred to water the plants that live here, and those are my personal favorite. It wasn’t unusual to have clouds move in quickly, lest they be stuck with only wetting the sidewalk and ruining the shoes of those who didn’t care for such things. And no cloud, to my knowledge, liked to be on that particular duty.

It took me by some surprise when a single cloud broke away from the collective cumulus, and gracefully bestowed sweet shade upon the bench. The metal began to cool instantly, and a creaking sigh released from it as an older man took a seat upon it. He glanced up at the sky, and gave a single nod of appreciation for the lone cloud above him. It was a small cloud, with nothing so special about it. Uneven with it’s curves and coloring, I could not explain the reason behind the radiance emanating from the bench.

The bench sat quietly, blissfully cooling it’s wooden bits and taking refuge in it’s new found friend. When I asked later what it had been feeling in that moment, because the connection between our bark allowed a level of communication, it could only describe the sensation as the sweetest relief on all levels, and insist that never before had it felt so cared for, protected and provided for in it’s considerable life.

“Not,” It said solemnly. “Since the day I lost my leaves and was fashioned into what I am today.”

I can only assume, which I try not to do as my grandfather used to say it would make an Ash out of me, that the cloud felt a similar connection, for it remained for the next three days, lingering above, keeping the bench cool and happy. It’s friends began to leave, whisking away to parts unknown, or fading into a chilly fog that coated parts of the ground. Less people came to the park for that short period, having no desire to be wading through the damp air. Still, this cloud remained, and during certain parts of the day, when the sun was just charitable enough, I could feel it brush against my bark with stunning clarity, and understood it saved the most of it’s magic for the one it sought out first.

The bench did not complain about the constant chill, but reveled in it. The cloud sent gentle breezes to dance over the wood, brushing soft and soothing kisses to an age old ache. It cast amusing shapes on the sidewalk before the bench, making bunnies and puppies frolic in monochromatic play. The problem is that there was so much joy that it did not see the signs that loomed above. The cloud it held so dear was darkening, losing the purity of the white heavens and gaining a silver hue. That hue gave way to slate-gray tones, and eventually, it sagged under the weight of it’s charcoal color. It was not until this final transformation that it occurred to my companion that a literal storm was brewing.

It seems to me that too often love blinds those in its presence. It is not until things have gone too far that eyes are open to changes, and then, all that is left to do is watch the train wreck happen. I implore you do not allow the fairy tales you’ve been told to take away your sight. Feel with all of your heart, but do not lose the use of your senses. The most volatile of storms can be painted with the most vibrant of colors.

The air was heavy with the tension, and a few brave souls cast wary glances at the swirling sky above. The cloud clung to it’s position stubbornly, almost desperately, and little wisps of it thinned out bit by bit. Lightning flashed, and the stragglers collected their belongings in a hurry, rushing to the relative safety of their vehicles or nearby pavilions. My foliage shook, some loosening to getting caught into a whirlwind that eventually dropped them to the ground below. A single red leaf landed on the empty bench, and the heavens opened up to release a torrent of rain upon the earth.

I’ve learned in my life that rain is to be appreciated; it brings life and nourishment to my kind. It is the purpose of a storm cloud to spread that life. I had seen many storms over my existence, but I think back on them, and this is the one that stands out the most; more than the one that turned over an elm across the way, and more than the one that rendered the playground useless for several days due to flooding.

As water graced the earth, dirt and leaves kicked up, skipping over the ground. I noticed that the bench had begun to get splattered, and I bemoaned the fact that my branches were too bare to offer any protection from the elements. It’s seal looked tested from wear, and water damage would be a serious affliction for it. But, surprisingly, the area over part of the bench remained clear, the wood cry and untouched. The cloud hung above, refusing to release it’s essence. But I could see it wearing down with each moment.

There was a brief pause before it happened, and in it, I felt peace come from the bench, and a sense of anticipation. It told me later that feeling the cool mist tickle across it’s fading veneer was the closest to bliss a sitting instrument could ever feel. As the rain fell from above, it seemed to move in slow motion, and the cloud’s soft touch caressed the wooden seat and back, trailing down the metal legs to pool at their base. I heard it cry out, the call heartbreaking, a sense of intense fulfillment and loss washing over me. I mourned for my friend, for as the storm passed slowly, he remained, and the cloud, as is it’s nature, did not.

It has been months now, and the city has not come by to reseal the benches and tables that fell victim to the weather. Life has moved on, the park bustles with the daily goings on of people and wildlife, and I stand in my place, looking over it all. The bench has grown weak, sun dried as my branches are bare and unable to protect it from the harsh rays, and few deign to sit up on it. The rain rusted it’s bolts, and if you sit upon it just right, there’s an unsettling creaking noise from beneath you. It’s glossy look has given way to a brittle, miscolored appearance. Pieces have begun to chip away from it, splintering off and, on more than once occasion, finding themselves piercing the skin of an unsuspecting innocent.

There have been complaints of concern that the condition of the bench is no longer safe, and the wind carries rumors of it’s removal. We do not talk about it, because it makes it remember what it almost had, but could not. I have watched it waste away, and I have felt it’s sorrow to my innermost ring. It knows it’s days are coming to an end, and that it cannot be saved for another life, the wood weathered too far for even a toothpick. But still, it remembers fondly and with clarity the moment that first rain drop fell, and it felt the touch of love, before then unattainable, against it.

Love is said to be strong, fast and enduring. But sometimes that endurance is a curse more than a blessing. For the bench remained long after the cloud, alone. I have seen my fair share of love stories, but the tragedy of the park bench and the cloud lingers in my mind. When they take it away, I do not know if there will be a replacement for it. I do not know if I want there to be. The bench witnessed countless stories over the years, and I do not know if I want my branches to shield another to do the same. But if they do bring a replacement, I will stand tall, and I will tell the tale of how a cloud found true love once upon a park bench.

Untitled

Moments that seem to never end,
Ones I’m not quite sure where they begin,
They’re circling me now.

Slowing my head down.

There’s a tightness in my chest,
And I can’t breathe.
It’s like the world is
Closing in on me.

And it’s weighing me down.

I’d scream but there’s water in my lungs,
I can’t lift my feet,
There’s no way to run
Away from everything you’ve ever said to me.

I can hear it all even now.

Broken words and shards of promises
They lay on the ground
You’re the start of this!
Start of the scratching in my throat.

I’m swallowing glass now.

Because my pride it’s sharp
With jagged edges
You shrug like it’s an apology
And I should fall to the floor with forgiveness.

Like there’s no sense in wondering how

How could you do this to me?
How was I too blind to see?
Was there no warning?
Why is there a war in me?

I need to win and I don’t know how.

You cannot win what you don’t understand
And there’s no getting this
This distance
Between us.

Welcome to Auschwitz

Children cry in the dead of night
screaming for solace
As their mothers try to tell them it’s alright
as they are told to hush, be quiet
The silence is broken by their pain
and filled with tears and moans
Saturated with their unveiled shame
crying silently for what they were denied
The corpses already litter the ground
Those of who cannot take the expectations inflicted upon us
The ashes of the weak and old can be found
Burned for being unable to pull the Nazi’s weight
We stare into eyes so hard and cold and cruel
So unfeeling, unrelenting
I have to wonder, can we get through?
But we have no choice, we have to try
My father sighs, then shuffles forward
Slowly, trying to bide his time
As if he knows he’s moving towards
The end of his life
Closer to an untimely death that can not be helped
That cannot, will not be prevented
I never thought I would go through hell
At such a young and innocent age
We stand in line, naked and shivering
With nothing but our pride to cover us
All these people surrounding me
Standing straight, some hunched in silent defeat, the first to die
And the wind biting into my arms and legs and neck
Stinging against my bare body, making me cringe
Burning my skin, making me regret
My life, my existence, my very being
Ever being born into this world
Being exposed to this brutality I do not deserve
And as the events around me unfurl
Slowly unraveling in front of my very eyes
I can see all these lives destroyed, fragile and shattered
Forgotten like they are of no importance
As if these peoples, these hearts didn’t matter
Nor their souls, their families and friends
Like our accomplishments meant nothing to them
Like WE meant nothing
As if we’re just a game, a nuisance to them
An unwanted burden
And a marking on my arm, branding me forever
Striping me of my identity
So if I DO survive I will remember forever
And never be free of the monstrosity we are subjected to
Remember the screams, the fear, and the chills
The crying of the poor innocents with no chance
Of standing at the foot of this hill
In a silent line
And seeing that child thrown into a burning flame
Melting its skin away like paper
As though this were a sick, cruel game
With rules we do not know
Where we are the victim, the prey, and the unwilling opponents
And they are the experts
And it’s common knowledge we don’t have a single chance
To win the battle, nonetheless the war
And by eliminating those you deem ‘unworthy’ those who are different
Those who do not meet your standards
You can win the prize; take the path of least resistance
The one for the ‘greater good’
A joke that held no humor for those of a certain type
Those like us with no laughter
It was all a ploy to decide what is ‘right’
And what deserves to exist
As the master is a dictator, someone with all the power
Who makes all the rules?
And when the clock strikes the final hour
And the sun goes down for the last time
It is he who will own our fate
Call our destinies
He who will create the days
And he who shall be the night
And mold the lives the strong will lead
And end that of the weak
Leaving nothing of what used to be
And the remains from what I loved
And the memories in my mind all begin to fade
To decorate in small pieces
As my long, horror filled days
Stretch and turn for the worse
Turn to months of fear and terror, ultimately numbness
That renders me unfeeling and impassioned
A sort of feeling that makes it possible to have known this
Couldn’t possibly become any worse
More and more people die, falling all around me
To the ground in saddened, dies-spirited heaps
And yet hope in the future I still cannot see
I still cannot decipher
My life is in their hands, they get to be God
Holding the knowledge of my ultimate demise
And never before did not knowing ever seem so hard
And being me such an imposition
Hated for who I am, rejected for what I’m not
And forced to pay for my blood in my blood
Told to forget everything that I was ever taught
To forget everything that I ever was
The eyes of my fellows grow cold and detached; as I’m sure do mine
When you look into their empty depths
And we have lost all track of time
And do not wish to know how much longer we must endure
We fight for food, killing those who used to be neighbors, or even close friends
For a small scrap of dry, molded bread
Because it’s all for ourselves in the end
For the end is all there is now
Every man for himself, only the strong shall survive this war
Is what we are constantly told
And those who cannot will exist nevermore
To be forgotten in the aftermath
I’m dying now, at the tender age of 19
A mere child who has seen nothing, known nothing
And nobody in the world will ever miss the likes of me
Never notice the missing link
There is a voice, but it continues to grow weak
So unstable and weary
It’s been days since I was able to speak
Doing so drains my energy
So now I’m tired, and am ready to give up
To sapped of all will to continue
But all around me, there are people who put up enough
Who try hard enough, forcing enough
Of a fight to keep living, to try and make it through
The hell we call life now
Even if putting off the inevitable is all they manage to do
All they can accomplish, its more than I
They can continue to breathe and hope and dream
To say it will be alright
Trying to make it all seem
To make it honestly appear
Like its ok, it will end soon
To be a terrifying memory
But if it was, I would be too
Able to live, and move on
And now on the brink of death
On the edge of surrender
As I take my very last breath
Ragged and shallow
I sigh, knowing this hell is over and done with
That it can continue no more for me
Welcome to Auschwitz

There’s a Storm

There is a storm swirling inside my heart.
I can see it growing closer,
And I so f e a r the dark.
I can see the rain
P
O
U
R    D
O
W
N
In the distance.
F.u.n.n.y. how the drops resemble memories…

Isn’t it?

My past lies ((reflected)) in a puddle on the ground.
Lost in the shadows the steeple tosses around.

L O F T Y glances from L O F T Y people with L O F T Y standards I cannot meet.
They don’t even know me
But I
Am the dirt

B
E
N
E
A
T
H
E

Their feet.

Can anybody hear me?
is anybody there?
My arms are open wide and I am S C R E A M I NG out for y.o.u.

Can anybody see me?
Or do they even care?
I’m on my knees and I’m b
E
G
G
G
I
N
G for you too.

The wind is picking up,
Carrying away my screams.
The dark is falling now,
How am I to see?
RiPpLeS in the water make me forget who I was.
The images are blurred, the voices a roaring buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The BIG bell in the tower,
S t r I k e s the
F
I
N
A
L

hour.

Depths

She’d never let him know just how D
E
E
P
The scars go,
When he s.p.e.a.k.s.
Out in anger.
The ones on her wrist have been healed for so long.
But now and again she wishes,
That the pain hadn’t gone.

That pain that kept her g r o u n d e d
And reminded her that
She was all she needed
And all she’d ever have.

Because even the ones
That claim to love
The ugly scars you showed them

Will add to the list
Add to your wrist
With the nasty words and where they throw them
To s
h
a
t
t
e
r    against the walls of your heart,
Like a ball in a china shop.

But she’ll never say this,
She won’t say a word.
Because even when she does
You don’t apologize for the hurt.

You simply shrug, like
She knows how it is,
Yeah you’re right.

But you don’t know
How she’s been thinking
One day she’ll be strong
Enough
To do the leaving

And you’ll be laying there,
Looking around,
At the shattered pieces
Of a broken family,
Laying on the ground.

And you’ll only call out to her to ask,
(DESPITE THAT SHE JUST WANTS YOU TO SAY SORRY.
YOU WERE ALREADY FORGIVEN!)
“Will you sweep that up when you come back?”

[In the Corner of a Drawer]

In the corner of a drawer,
Shoved behind the mismatched socks
And the t-shirts I never wear,
Is an old photograph,
A *corner torn and folded over,
A coffee stain marring the image,
*Pale and faded with age.
Two faces, smiling and cheerful,
A contrast* to the pain that lives there now,
Turned towards each other,
Lifted,
Exposed*,
And out there for the world to see.

When the negative* thoughts couldn’t touch us,
And forever was more than just
A distant, faraway dream.
The sun casts* shadows in the background,
And if you look closely,
You can see a phantom*,
A ghost,
Of the girl I used to be.

Once upon a time a kiss
Was all it took to flip*
The switch,
And ignite* a fire so hot,
I swear we should have burnt
That entire beach town to the ground.

Ashes to sand, hand in hand.

But you know what they say
About flames that burn wild.

In a flash* they die out,
Leaving smoldering coals,
And nothing to save.

So I delegate those memories
To the back of a drawer,
Out of sight, but never forgotten,
Even if I can’t look at it anymore.
There’s a reel in my head,
That flows* and runs without end,
Of every memory clip* together,
Your voice a broken record,
My heart the needle*
That allows it to
s
k
I
p

and stick around.

I keep hoping the pain will taper* off,
And fade away.
But the button* on my mind seems to be stuck,
And it just
WON’T GO AWAY.

There’s a photograph, worn and torn
Shoved in the back of a drawer.
It’s battered and beaten,
And it seems to look just like I feel.

But I can’t let it go.

Because I need to remember that once upon a time…

I was real.

Hey Little Brother

Hey little brother, I can see you.

You’re standing there, with your feet planted,
And a defiant glint in your eyes,
A carefree smirk across your lips.

That upward tilt to your chin is oh so familiar.

Hey little brother, I can see you.

You think that no one could possibly understand,
And you just want to know why we can’t leave you alone,
And allow you to live your life anyway you can.

I’ve wondered that myself.

Hey little brother, I can see you.

I’m telling you now, that the drugs?
They don’t solve anything.
At the end of the day you’ll still hurt.

And you will remember everything.

Hey little brother, I can see you.

Because I’ve watched you grow up,
And I’m watching you grow away,
From the people that love you the most.

The ones who aren’t sure what to say.

Hey little brother, I can see me.

Every time I look into your eyes.
There’s a crazed panic in them,
That only a kindred soul could recognize.

There’s still time to change.

Hey little brother, can you see me?

I’m living proof.
You can walk away from it all,
Make it all okay.

But that is a decision that has to be made by you.

Hey little brother, I can see you

Can’t Shake Hands With a Closed Fist

Hands often tell a s.t.o.r.y.
That faces will not betray
For when a mask slips on
The hands will give you away.

The stiff fingers when you place
Your hand in >>mine.<<
The tremor while your voice stays calm
And you look right into my eyes.

There’s a dozen scars that tell the tales
Of adventures that have passed.
You may not tell the stories,
But your hands will tell your past.

I Must Have Loved You

Years of waiting for your return
turned to anger then indifference.
I let go of the pain that haunted me,
I learned to move on and stopped letting you control me.
I forced myself to hear your voice,
And tell myself that you didn’t matter.
Gone were the days
of pretending that you ever cared,
or that you ever would again.
I didn’t hope for a text to light up my phone,
in fact, if you did, I wouldn’t have known
it was you. Because I deleted you.
But every now and then
no matter how strong I thought I’d been
I’d hear a song, I’d think of you
and the fierce wave of hate would swell within
almost instantly killed by a longing pain
for the what could have been.
I erected walls to shut people out
they weren’t a challenge to climb
they weren’t a sign for help
I simply needed to protect my sanity
I needed to keep you the fuck away from me
It wasn’t until I realized
that though I don’t need your approval
though I don’t want your love
though I don’t need you in my life
allowing myself to feel so strongly
about you walking out almost twenty years ago
I must have loved you
with a love that was more than love.
Because you were my daddy.
my hero
and I was just in the way.